Toxic Relationships: Stop Hiding Behind ‘Culture’ to Justify Toxic Behavior

Toxic Relationships: Stop Hiding Behind ‘Culture’ to Justify Toxic Behavior toxic relationships: stop hiding behind ‘culture’ to justify toxic behavior
Photo by San Fermin Pamplona – Navarra on Unsplash

I recently talked to someone who was justifying their partner’s constant disrespectful and demeaning behaviour by saying, “Well, that’s just how it is in our culture. A wife/husband is supposed to obey and never question their spouse.” That’s one person I’ve talked to, but I know there are plenty out there who follow unmalleable rules that have been set by others in their relationships.

It can be a convenient excuse for someone to abuse or mistreat you, or even avoid taking responsibility, under the guise of cultural norms. Similarly, it can serve as an excuse for tolerating abusive behaviour by failing to hold partners accountable and instead attributing it solely to culture. It often follows the pattern of saying, “They behave like this because of their culture, but otherwise, they are good people.”

So, are cultural norms a free pass to be in a toxic relationship or to be abusive?

To that, I say: culture is not some magical forcefield that gives you a free pass to be toxic and abusive or to stay in an abusive relationship. Using “it’s my cultural norm” as an excuse for mistreating your partner is a plain and simple abuse.

If you want to understand abuse, don’t focus on why they do it, but rather on the reality: a human being is hurting another human being, and another human being is tolerating being hurt without protecting themselves. Your mind, or rather its deeply ingrained beliefs, will come up with all sorts of excuses and rationalizations just to keep you stuck in a familiar environment.

Here’s the hard truth: even if your culture has an outdated idea that a partner “must submit” or that “abuse is disciplinary,” you’re still the one actively choosing to act on those regressive beliefs. Spouse intimidation and mind games might be “tradition” where you’re from, but that doesn’t make it any less psychologically violent when you consciously do it.

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When you follow along with the oppressive cultural rules such as “marriage is forever, no matter what” or “parents must be obeyed no matter what,” you’re willingly imprisoning yourself. It will keep you trapped in pain, and the worst part is, you’re the only one who feels it — you can’t feel the emotional distress, the anxiety, the sleepless nights, the physical pain, or any of the torment inflicted by a ‘cultured’ abuse as a community. It’s only you who will suffer from you blindly believing them.

When someone uses “culture” as a shield to dismiss or minimize their partner’s basic human need for dignity and safety, that is abusive. If there’s one thing which is really hard to break free from it is culturally ingrained beliefs but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

What Choice Do You Have?

At the end of the day, it will still trickle down to you and me. If you’re sticking to that hurtful relationship because of culture or because you’re using culture to defend your partner’s behaviours, then you’ve got to take responsibility for yourself. The first place to start is to understand that if a person’s identity is built around their culture, then they cannot see anything else beyond it, and there’s no need for you to even stick around that unhealthy relationship.

You’re the one who needs to change and understand that some people just hold onto those strong cultural beliefs because that’s how they’ve been moulded since they came to this planet, and your job now that you’re reading this and you have slight awareness is to just see things the way they are and prioritize your own safety. Your mind will feed you with all kinds of reasons why you need to be ‘understanding,’ but that’s not it; you’re getting hurt. Find safety first, then understanding will come later. You cannot change someone; you can only change yourself.

So no, don’t even think about excusing their behaviours and your behaviours as aspects of your culture, and just come back to focusing on you. Take the courageous path of always challenging those cultural norms, and that’s how you will be free from the prison.

You can live within the culture but as someone who understands that your only ethical job and responsibility is to keep yourself safe and not follow along with ‘unwritten rules’ which we just pick up in the name of society or culture. Your mind is the culture and society as you’re using that to interpret everything happening around you. There is no excuse for abuse.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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